By Rory Harrington
June 22, 2009
A proposal to allow individual countries in the European Union to opt out of growing genetically modified (GM) crops is to be tabled this week at a top-level meeting at the European Commission.
The bid for GM national self-determination comes as 11 nations plan to present a paper at the Environment Council on Thursday as a way to end the deadlock on GM authorisations that have frustrated EU member states and industry players alike for a number of years.
Individual countries to decide
Citing opposition amongst national populations, the proposal calls for a rethink on the process to sanction GM products.
The document, co-written by Austria, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Slovenia and the Netherlands, says: "Given the unsatisfactory situation and the negative attitude towards GMOs of large parts of the population in many member states, time has come to find a new approach to deal with the authorisation and use of GMOs in agriculture.
"The legally soundest solution we envisage is a set of minor amendments of relevant EU legislation, which should introduce the right of an individual member state to restrict or prohibit indefinitely the cultivation of authorised GMOs on its territory."
The group claims it would be possible to draw up such an opt-out clause and integrate it into the current EU legal framework.
They suggest formulating an inventory of socio-economic criteria that governments of individual member states to employ to “prohibit or regulate” cultivation of GM crops. This could apply to either the whole territory or certain designated areas.
However, before that takes place, the paper proposes that EU Environment ministers look at options that “could enable national self-determination for cultivation, without changing the general authorisation procedure for placing GMOs and products thereof on the market."
Under current regulations, GM products are granted a 10-year licence permitting their cultivation or importation across the entire EU-27 bloc.
However, it is understood there are a number of hurdles that would need to be overcome to make the proposal a reality. Strict rules on the regulation of the EU’s single market would make it difficult to change the law and may be viewed by many as setting a dangerous precedent.
Procedurally, the paper for this week’s meeting has not been tabled as one on which a decision needs to be made. However, FoodProductionDaily.com understands that the group may view Thursday’s move as a way to register the proposal in the minds of the membership of the Environment Council, with a view to bringing forward a more formal motion in future.